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Book Reviews
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The Cheerleaders
by Kara Thomas

-You can find this book here.

Years after a series of horrific events left five young women from a cheerleading squad dead, the sister of one of them begins to suspect that justice has not been done.

Sixteen-year-old Monica is beginning her school year recovering from terminating an unplanned pregnancy after having a summer fling with a guy in his 20s. The physical and emotional pain that she feels is only compounded by the five-year anniversary of her kind and caring older sister Jen's death. Jen died by suicide, seemingly in reaction to two of her friends’ dying in a car accident and then, just weeks later, two others being brutally murdered by an obsessed neighbor, who was then shot and killed by Jen and Monica's police officer stepfather. However, Monica makes some discoveries that cause her to begin questioning this story, and she doggedly pursues each loose end she can find. The fantastical setup underpinning this contemporary mystery is intricate, and readers may struggle to keep track of all the characters as the narrative moves between the first-person present perspective of Monica and Jen’s third-person flashbacks. Yet, it cleverly layers a veneer of doubt over each of the players in the story, effectively keeping the audience guessing until the very end. Monica and her family are white, and there is diversity in secondary characters.

A busy, but satisfying, whodunnit with a solution as complicated as its premise. (Mystery. 14-18)

Review found here.

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                             BRIGHT WE BURN by Kiersten White

Bright We Burn
by Kiersten White

-You can find this book here.

In 1454, conflict between the once-inseparable Lada, Radu, and Mehmed comes to its inevitable bloody fruition.

Prince Lada Dracul consolidates her power to stand against the Ottoman Empire’s demand that Wallachia return to being a vassal state. She does this both by stirring up trouble in other states and by her usual brutal violence—so brutal that Sultan Mehmed, busy rebuilding newly-conquered Constantinople, must respond. Meanwhile, Radu struggles with his part in Constantinople’s fall and his guilt over Nazira and Cyprian, who vanished after sailing away. To bring Lada to heel, Mehmed sends Radu to capture her so they can negotiate; Lada also plans to kidnap Radu, viewing him as fundamentally hers. Neither gets what they want. The subsequent invasion features force that is massive on Mehmed’s part and depraved on Lada’s. Mehmed may have the money and numbers (compared to Lada’s shaky alliances), but Lada is clever, terrifying, and has cultivated a near-worship among the peasants whose lots she’s improved—even as she turns her country into a giant deathtrap. Politics, battle strategy, and betrayals thrill, while the toxic dynamic keeps the focus on the intrinsically linked trio. Most characters are Central or Eastern European or Turkish; Islam has a positive portrayal, as do same-sex relationships.

An intense, engrossing read that never loses sight of its passionate characters’ humanity, especially when they’re at their worst. (map, dramatis personae, glossary, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Review found here.

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                             CATWOMAN by Sarah J. Maas

Catwoman: Soulstealer
by Sarah J. Maas

-You can find this book here.

“When the Bat’s Away, the Cat Will Play.”

A child of Gotham City’s slums, almost 18-year-old Selina Kyle has a rap sheet that includes robbery, gambling, and maintaining her title as the undefeated champion fighter for the Leopards, a girl gang. But everything she does is for her younger half sister Maggie, who suffers from cystic fibrosis. Apprehended by Talia al Ghul, leader of the infamous League of Assassins, Selina agrees to go with her to Italy on the condition that Maggie is well cared for. Fast-forward two years. Selina returns to Gotham as Holly Vanderhees, a blonde-haired billionaire socialite, and moonlights as Catwoman, the city’s newly-christened Queen of the Underworld. Cue Luke Fox, son to Wayne Industries’ CEO, a semipro boxer and an ex-Marine suffering from PTSD. He protects the city as Batwing and is determined to prove himself when Catwoman teams up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn while Batman is out of town. Maas (Tower of Dawn, 2017, etc.) has a gift for crafting fierce female protagonists. Selina is physically skilled, wickedly smart, and inhabits morally gray areas, making her a complex yet admirable antiheroine. Action-packed fight scenes, racial and sexual diversity (Harley and Ivy have history, Luke is black), and a dollop of romance will engage current and soon-to-be Catwoman fans.

An epic shoutout to all the bad girls who know how to have fun. (Superhero fantasy. 12-18)

Review found here.

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